Scientific Name(s): Phoenix dactylifera
What: fruit, flowers, sap, terminal bud (palm heart)
How: fruit raw, dried, cooked; flowers raw; sap straight, fermented, or boiled down to syrup or sugar, terminal bud roasted or pickled.
When: flowers in spring, fruit in summer, sap anytime except winter
Nutritional Value: fruit - calories, vitamin C, minerals
Date palm base.
Date palm trunk.
Date palm crown. Needle-type leaf.
Dates from Phoenix dactylifera are considered to be the sweetest of palm fruit. Originally from the Middle East, these trees are now found along the Gulf Coast as well as California. They require a lot of water but don't do well in areas of high humidity like Houston and dates from trees in this area are usually of low quality. Trees are either male or female with the females being the only ones to produce dates after wind fertilization from a nearby male tree's pollen.
The sap is very sweet and can be drank as is, fermented into palm wine, or evaporated down to palm syrup or sugar. Traditionally it is collected by carefully carving a bowl-shaped depression in the tree's crown in the late afternoon or evening. The sap collects in this depression overnight and is gathered in the morning. If left exposed to sun and air it will quickly spoil.
Date palm flowers appear in the spring and are eaten raw. Palm hearts (terminal buds) are the "root" the center-most, youngest leaf at the very top of the tree. It is harvested by cutting off the top of the tree and carving out the palm heart which kills the tree.